Jerome V. Widelski
April 25, 1940 – November 18, 2020
Jerome Victor Widelski (Jerry) died on November 18, 2020 while on a bike ride on Oak Island, North Carolina. He and his wife, Annette (Muggs), were cycling up to ten miles each morning. He was doing what he loved to do, where he had come to love, and with whom he loved deeply.
Jerry was born in Chicago, Illinois to the late Victor S. and Blanche Cyr Widelski. One of his earliest memories was of fishing with his father from a pier in Chicago, a passion he would pursue throughout his life, and which came full circle when he and Muggs moved to Oak Island in 2014 and became members of the Ocean Crest Pier where he was often joined by Muggsie (as he affectionately called her) and her mother, Margaret Siczek. A highlight during his college summers was working on a commercial fishing boat that fished for Albacore off the California coast.
After the age of seven, Jerry and his four brothers were raised in Gary, Indiana. Following graduation from Edison High School in 1958 Jerry enlisted in the United States Air Force and was stationed in Mississippi, California and Okinawa, Japan. He specialized in electronics. Throughout his life, Jerry was a passionate advocate for the personal development opportunities military service afforded young people.
Following his discharge from the Air Force in 1962, and during the height of the Cold War, he served as a civilian in Greenland monitoring the Distant Early Warning Line, also known as the DEW Line, which consisted of continental defense radar installations from Alaska to Greenland. With the resources he saved from that lonely assignment, he travelled extensively throughout Europe before returning to the United States and enrolling at Purdue University in Indiana from which he obtained both his BS and MS degrees in psychology.
His extensive travel as a young man sowed the seeds of a second passion, global travel. Over the past 20 years, Jerry meticulously planned numerous trips for Muggsie and his brother, Dick, and sister-in-law Sue. Of course, always checking out the local fishing upon arrival! Jerry visited all 50 states and travelled to over 40 countries.
Jerry never lost his Midwest values evidenced by his strong work ethic, faith, commitment to family and, linguistically, the occasional “Holy Cow!” It was not surprising that following his military experience, acquired world view, compassion for others, and the patience of a fisherman, he would choose a career in the helping professions. His whole life’s work was devoted to providing support services to the chronically mentally ill and, in the latter stages of his career, championing affordable housing for individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities as well as senior citizens. For example, building the Mother Teresa Villa in Charlotte took many years of his perseverance and drive to get it done. During his long career he served on many nonprofit boards, including InReach. The culmination of his career was leading the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte’s initiative to providing affordable housing.
While at Purdue University, Jerry met and married Muggs. With their three children, they moved from Michigan to Illinois and eventually to North Carolina. Since 2014 Muggs and Jerry divided their time between homes in Charlotte and Oak Island.
His exceptional capacity to love was felt by his children: C.J. (Charles) and Katy Widelski, Tanya Widelski Little and Marvin Little, and Della Widelski Wheeler and Eric Wheeler; his grandchildren: Stephanie, Chandler, Sierra, Lexi, Gabby, Zoe, and Brianna; his great granddaughter Nina; and his bonus grandchildren: Paul, Jesse, Hannah, Matthew, Jake, and Karen.
Jerry was extremely close to his brothers and their families: Donald S. Widelski (Betty), Richard C. Widelski (Sue), Victor J Widelski (Nancy, deceased), and Lawrence P. Widelski (deceased) (Joyce). Over the years he and Muggs drove or flew thousands of miles to share in the achievements and life events of his extended family.
One of the greatest beneficiaries of Jerry’s goodness, caring, selflessness and generosity was his mother-in-law, Margaret Siczek, who lived with Muggs and Jerry for many of the years preceding her passing at 102 years. He adored her and she him. One of his travel planning coups was finding a three-day cruise over Thanksgiving 2003 in the Caribbean when Margaret was joined by her children and their spouses, Mary Pat and John Young, Chuck and Cherrill Siczek, and Muggs and Jerry.
Above all, Jerry was one of the most trustworthy people on earth. He could be depended upon to be for his family, friends, neighbors, and vulnerable clients, not to mention those who depended upon his handyman skills. Such a need became known as an “Uncle Jerry job!”
Jerry had an incredible curiosity such that when in his presence, one felt known, respected, listened to and safe. His listening was often assisted in noisy gatherings by Muggsie stationed at his “good ear!” When not relating to others, Jerry would be feeding the birds or immersed in puzzles often with his trademark toothpick juggled among his teeth.
In this era of the pandemic, neighbors in their small “bubble” on Oak Island who much appreciated Jerry, upon his passing have shown exceptional kindness, generosity and caring.
It was Jerry’s wish that memorials be made to InReach, 4530 Park Road, Suite 300, Charlotte, NC 28209 or https://www.inreachnc.org
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Jerome (Jerry) Victor Widelski, please visit our floral store.
4530 Park Road, Suite 300, Charlotte NC 28209